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Stanton should not be ousted for being outed

Steve Stanton might be ousted for being outed.

Largo city manager Stanton had an intricate plan to reveal to the City Commission the transition he would be undergoing from Steve to Susan, but his plan was leaked to the press a few months early. It’s doubtful anyone saw the repercussions coming. It’s hard to imagine that he wanted all this, but it’s harder to imagine why this is such a problem.

In a progressive country such as America, the injustice committed against Stanton is an embarrassing disgrace. Stanton was held in high regard as city manager until Feb. 27, when commissioners decided to put him on paid leave – seven days after his plans for a sex-change operation were leaked. Those same commissioners will decide Stanton’s future as city manager. Tonight, he could lose his leadership position of 14 years because he wanted to become a she.

That isn’t sufficient grounds for him to be fired. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Stanton’s attorney Karen Doering has prepared a 19-page summary that was sent to City Hall, which highlighted his achievements. These include “improved services … a long-range redevelopment plan, (the building of) a modern library and cultural center, and … boosting property tax revenue by nearly $10 million.”

Stanton has served the city of Largo well; this is hardly an acceptable repayment. The main argument from the Commission is his strong and uncompromising management style. Allegedly, Stanton had terminated the employment of an individual for refusing to come into work in order to stay with his elderly mother when Hurricane Charley threatened the Tampa Bay area. The move put Stanton under fire, but it was a decision made almost three years ago. Stanton’s most recent evaluation by this same Commission granted him a 9 percent raise – a sign of approval in anyone’s eyes.

The timing of his possible discharge is all too convenient. Doering said to the Times that, “If these were actual problems, they would have been brought up in annual evaluations or before he announced he’s transitioning.”

The Commission needs to open its eyes and recognize the impact of its decision. If the Commission fires Stanton, the message sent is one of discrimination and disgust. Such a decision would say that Largo – which, ironically, is known as the “City of Progress” – prefers a leader who is not true to himself and his needs.

Stanton’s sex change does not make him any less of a leader. The current mayor of Largo is a woman and her leadership is not compromised by her gender. Stanton is no different. It is ridiculous to be discriminated against because of gender, especially after how much Stanton has served the city. Doesn’t that service deserve consideration from his peers? Doesn’t Stanton deserve understanding from the people he effects the most – the citizens of Largo?

Those citizens will have a chance to speak. Tonight, Stanton’s hearing in front of the Commissioners is a public one. I encourage all concerned parties to speak. The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at Largo City Hall, 201 Highland Ave.

The Commission cannot be allowed to fire Stanton for dubious and erroneous reasons that are suddenly important. The obvious issue is his choice – an issue the Commission should not care about. The change of gender will not affect his performance, and his pay raise suggests the Commission was satisfied with his work ethic.

The biggest question will undoubtedly be left unanswered. Why? Why has this become such a problem? This situation is a reminder of the harsh reality that the culture Floridians live in is not as accepting as they think. Yes, people can make their own decisions, but some must brace themselves to be thrown to the lions. Stanton has this USF student’s full support, and I hope that, eventually, I will be able to talk about the great things Susan Stanton is doing for the city of Largo.

Amy Mariani is a freshman majoring in mass communications.